Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
Dr Michael Murray
A peer mentoring activity designed to aid transition to university studies and familiarisation with industrial practice related to intended career.
Fresher students, particularly those moving into higher education direct from secondary school studies, deserve special attention to assist their transition into university life.1 Moreover, the provision of meaningful ‘social support networks and supportive interactions’, to enable first year students to engage with their peers, and academic staff, are influential in relation to student retention.2 The provision of peer support for fresher’s, by students who have progressed into later years of study and who have assimilated a mix of ‘specific university, general academic and local student-orientated information’ can be invaluable to freshers.3
(1)Miller K, Calder C, Martin A, McIntyre M, Porter I and Smyth G (2008) Quality Enhancement Themes: The First Year Experience, Personal Development Planning in the first year, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education,
http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/30350/1/PDPFinal_Report_2.pdf, (accessed 01/10/2014).
(2)Wilcox P Winn S and Fyvie-Gauld M (2005) ''It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people': the role of social support in the first-year experience of higher education', Studies in Higher Education, 30:6, 707 – 722 DOI: 10.1080/03075070500340036
(3)Dewart H, Drees D, Hixenbaugh P and Thorn L (2006) Engaging first year students at a metropolitan university: is electronic mentoring an effective strategy? http://www.fyhe.com.au/past_papers/2006/Papers/Dewart.pdf (accessed 01/10/2014).
An attached document provides a more extensive set of results based on questionnaires returned from little buddies (N=70 from 82) and big buddies ( N=17 from 23).
(74%) of the little buddies agreed / strongly agreed that their big buddy had inspired them to continue their studies in civil engineering.
(91%) of the little buddies agreed / strongly agreed that their big buddy had provided useful information about their industrial placement.
(82%) of the little buddies agreed / strongly agreed that their big buddy had provided useful information about university life.
Selected comments (little buddies)
I have developed a stronger enthusiasm for the course as I spoke to someone who was in their 5th year and was strongly passionate about the subject and I believe a little bit of his enthusiasm has rubbed off on me.
I have learned what to expect in the coming years of my life at university and because of this I now know how to prepare myself so I can perform at the best of my ability.
I took on board a lot of in depth information about the upcoming coursework’s and assignments as well as a good insight on the workload, helping me prepare for the later years
I learnt a lot about applying for jobs, and the routes you can choose, as in doing the masters or not, or doing it part time etc.
A formal training package could have improved the big buddies understanding of the initiative and this would have ensured a more consistent level of practice over the piece.
Roughly equal feedback from both the little & big buddies suggested that the initiative should be either formalised as a credit bearing activity or left voluntary. For the 2015-16 session, participation will remain voluntary but more emphasis will be put on encouraging the big buddies to communicate with the little buddies between the formal meetings.
Reluctance of the little buddies to participate when they learned that their involvement was not credit bearing! This has the potential to demotivate the big buddies who are setting aside time to offer their guidance.
1st year class (N=82) and big buddies from senior years (N=23)
No scalability issues.
Peer interventions are appropriate in almost all teaching & learning activities within higher education.
Attached Document: MM Little Buddies Big Buddies Rational and Results 2015